Dáil Éireann - Volume 687 - 08 July, 2009

Written Answers. - Irish Prison Service.

Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of mobile phones seized in each of the prisons to date in 2009; the measures put in place in each prison to prevent mobile phone use by prisoners; the categories of visitor and staff in each prison permitted to enter the prison with mobile phones on their person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28667/09]

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Mobile phones are viewed as highly valuable commodities which could assist in illegal activity and eliminating their supply is one of the major challenges facing prisons worldwide.

[988] The Irish Prison Service is dealing with this problem through a multifaceted approach which incorporates measures to prevent the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons, search and find operations aimed at locating and removing phones from within the prisons and the installation of mobile phone blocking technology.

Airport style scanners and x-ray machines are now in operation at the entrances of all closed prisons (excluding the Training Unit and Arbour Hill). Cell and area searches for contraband such as mobile phones take place in all prisons on a daily basis. These include random, targeted and intelligence led searches. These searches have been particularly effective and local intelligence indicates that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system.

Only Governor grades and other persons that may from time to time be authorised by the Governor, for example, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service are permitted to enter prisons while in possession of a mobile phone.

In relation to mobile phone inhibition, as the Deputy will be aware, a project to identify means of inhibiting the use of mobile phones in prisons has been ongoing since April 2007. The project commenced at the Midlands Prison and results to date have been sufficiently positive to convince the Irish Prison Service of the merit of extending the inhibition system at the Midlands into the new “C” block at Portlaoise Prison and also to the nearby Segregation Unit, and installation work in this regard is close to completion.

Three other test projects are also being undertaken at other prison locations. When all trial systems are fully in place and evaluation is complete it is intended to seek competitive tenders on a prison by prison basis from each of the companies in the trials whose product meets the requirements of the Irish Prison Service in relation to mobile phone inhibition.

In relation to the number of mobile phones seized in each of the prisons to date in 2009, I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that it was not possible to collate the relevant information in the time available but I include, for the Deputy’s information, the latest figures I have to hand on the following table. I will furnish the updated information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Mobile Phone Seizures for 2008 and up to 20.03.09

Prison/Place of Detention

2008

2009 (to 20.03.09)

Arbour Hill

3

2

Castlerea

106

21

Cloverhill

128

10

Cork

64

8

Dóchas Centre

55

14

Limerick

292

87

Loughan House

58

9

Midlands

136

13

Mountjoy (Male)

580

137

Portlaoise

41

19

Shelton Abbey

72

27

St. Patrick’s

160

25

Training Unit

120

17

Wheatfield

232

42

Total

2,047

431